STRAYA - 50 Australian Sayings
Augmented Reality Experience coming soon...
Karen Alsop's Animal Tales exhibition is an exciting and captivating collection of photographic art pieces that showcase anthropomorphic local wildlife in unexpected humanlike places. Along with her Australian Animal collections, Karen also has on show her ever-popular Animal Puns series, which offers an interactive adventure for viewers who are challenged to find the idioms represented in each artwork.

The latest addition to Karen's Animal Pun series is "Straya," a panoramic wonderland set at Menzie Creek Station, Puffing Billy, that incorporates 50 Australian sayings into the piece. Karen has cleverly incorporated Aussie slang visually into a storytelling piece, including sayings such as "Madder than a cut snake" and "Tickets on yourself," among many others.
This visual feast of imagery is enhanced by Karen's interactive approach. Visitors can scan a QR code and view the artwork in 3D with sound and animation on their devices, adding an additional layer to the experience. Art lovers can even take the experience home by purchasing one of Karen's printed artworks and impressing their friends with the interactive augmented reality features.
What was your inspiration for this series?
The Animal Tales series began with a single elephant sitting in the middle of a hallway, representing the saying "Elephant in the Room." After sharing my progress with my husband, Stuart, he encouraged me to add more to the piece. This led me to incorporate as many animal sayings as possible, resulting in 20 animal puns in one room, challenging viewers to find the idioms in a game-like fashion.

Subsequent iterations of the concept focused on specific animals, including "Sick as a Dog," "Piggy Bank," and "Bull in a China Shop." Following the installation of the Animal Tales exhibition at the Emerald Lake Park Visitor Centre, I had a vision for "Straya," set at a Puffing Billy station and featuring as many Aussie slang sayings as possible as the prompt for the visuals. The resulting panoramic artwork incorporates 50 Australian sayings in one piece, creating a truly unique and immersive experience.
How long did it take you to produce?
The conceptualisation of "Straya" spanned over 6 months, involving brainstorming a list of fitting sayings and planning the scene and its elements. However, I did not commence the photographic process until January 2023. Firstly, I captured the desired elements from Menzies Creek Puffing Billy Station in overcast lighting and combined multiple shots to form a comprehensive set. Next, I transformed the scene into a nocturnal setting by incorporating lanterns and lights to contrast with the blue hues of the night. I then sketched out the layout of each saying and how the various animals and elements would mesh together cohesively. The artwork needed to be divisible into squares for merchandise and two 16:9 ratio pieces that could be displayed independently or as a composite. I gradually added each element and animal in Photoshop. Some of the animals were pre-existing in my image library, while others required custom captures. The entire creation process, excluding ideation, took 3 months to accomplish.​​​​​​​
Where did you get all of the Australian puns from?
Compiling the comprehensive list of Australian Puns was an enjoyable aspect of the project. I recorded the ones that I was already familiar with and researched online for other lists of Australian Sayings. Additionally, I asked my social media friends for input, which yielded several additional slang sayings that I had not considered before. To illustrate a traditional Vanilla Slice, my local bakery (Up the Hill Bakehouse) recommended the term "Snot Block". I collaborated with the bakery to capture an image of the "Snot Block" and made sure to indulge in it once the photo shoot was complete!​​​​​​​
Are the featured animals of significance for their proximity to the region, or something else?
The artwork "Straya" features several significant animals that represent various Australian sayings. The wombats, in particular, are essential to the artwork as they depict sayings such as "Ham Sandwich," "Wombat's Picnic," and "A sandwich short of a picnic." These wombats were originally photographed for my "Homeless Wildlife" series, which is also part of the Animal Tales collection. As an artist, it's essential for me to bring attention to the challenges faced by native Australian wildlife and the remarkable work of our local rescuers.
During the creation process, I realised that I needed additional photographs of particular animals. The Upper Beaconsfield community has always been generous in their support. Whenever I reached out for a specific element or animal, locals were always willing to bring them to my studio, including Budgies.

The inclusion of each element or animal was always inspired by the corresponding Australian saying that needed to be illustrated. My goal was to showcase these sayings in a unique, thought-provoking way, encouraging the viewer to think outside the box and discover something unexpected. More detailed information about the animals featured in the artwork and their stories will be available in an upcoming book.

The List of Sayings and their Meanings
Mates Rates
Charge like a wounded bull
Tickets on yourself
Emu Bob
Bean Counter
Drop Bear
Cat’s Pyjamas
Bush Telegraph
Spit the Dummy
On ya bike
Like a rat up a drainpipe
Drink with the flies
Hit the turps
Flat out like a lizard drinking
Better than a Ham Sandwich
Hit the frog and toad
Bin Chicken
Sandwich short of a picnic
A thirst you could photograph
Snot Block
Playing Possum
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
Wombat’s picnic
Budgie Smugglers
Flying off the handle
Hen’s night
As scarce as hen’s teeth
Mother hen
Ants pants
Cat on a hot tin roof
In the Sticks
Across the ditch
Madder than a cut snake
Ankle biter
Tall poppy syndrome
Dead Horse
Act the goat
Flamin’ Galah
Have a Captain Cook
Rabbit on
Stone the crows
Bog roll
Cunning as a dunny rat
A few kangaroos loose in the top paddock